The Millions

A Flash Fiction Roundtable: Short but Never Small

What’s the state of flash fiction today? Seems there’s no short answer. But I asked a handful of author/editors who write and review flash fiction day in, day out (see some of their favorites published at The Millions earlier this month). Their responses are expansive, touching on the difference between adapted fragments and “a real flash piece;” transitioning from nonfiction and poetry; erotic gapes; Carver, Sarraute, Oulipo, and Joseph Cornell; fast-food literature; guerilla literacy; readers as co-creators, and the future of flash’s evolving aesthetics.

Nancy Stohlman is the author of three books of flash fiction, editor of three anthologies of flash fiction, and a prominent instructor of flash fiction techniques; Tara Lynn Masih is the founding editor of Best Small Fictions anthology series and the Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction; Lynn Mundell is a co-founder of 100 Word Story whose flash fiction has been published in numerous journals and anthologies; and Grant Faulkner is the author of Pep Talks for Writers and the flash collection Fissures.

Jon Roemer: What was the first flash fiction you read? Were you writing it before you knew it as a practice, and then realized it’s a thing? Or did you have model practitioners before you first started? 

Tara Lynn Masih: Yes, I was taught to write in what some call “vignettes,” brief scenes that my high school writing teacher encouraged her students to explore… It wasn’t till someone gave me Shapard and Thomas‘s Sudden Fiction that I knew, years later, that what we had been doing in that classroom years earlier was becoming “a thing.”

Flash fiction arrived for me in 2007 as I was writing my third novel, agonizing over it like a relationship you really want to work out, dammit! It was during my MFA at Naropa University—I took a flash fiction class with, and after so many years of writing more—talk  about this, give description here,  backstory here, explain this —it was such a relief to write less. I feel like flash fiction saved me from writing all those novels. Because I never really wanted to say all that other stuff anyway. Six months later I co-founded Fast

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